Tag Archives: adventure

ARC Review – Look Out for the Fitzgerald -Trouts by Esta Spalding

25648162Title:  Look Out for the Fitzgerald-Trouts

Author: Esta Spalding

Rating: ★★★★

Synopsis: Kim Fitzgerald-Trout took to driving with ease–as most children would if their parents would ever let them try. She had to. After all, she and her siblings live in a car. Meet the Fitzgerald-Trouts, a band of four loosely related children living together in a lush tropical island. They take care of themselves. They sleep in their car, bathe in the ocean, eat fish they catch and fruit they pick, and can drive anywhere they need to go–to the school, the laundromat, or the drive-in. If they put their minds to it, the Fitzgerald-Trouts can do anything. Even, they hope, find a real home.

Huge thank you to Penguin Random House Canada for this ARC!

Sam’s Review:

Once in awhile I get sent a random book in the mail. Sometimes I look at it and I’m like “I am not sure this is for me” and other times I get really excited. When I got this gem in the mail, I wasn’t sure if it was going to be my jam, but then it was endorsed by my Book Angel, and she’s usually never wrong when it comes to quirky middle grade.

Look Out for the Fitzgerald-Trouts is a middle grade adventure starring four children who live in a car. There are numerous occasions where they parent the adults in the novel, and sometimes crazy antics ensue. I love a middle grade novel that is both hilarious as it is heartfelt, and that’s what this book gave me. The Fitzgerald-Trouts kids are delightful and memorable, from Pippa’s parenting skills, Kimo’s kindness, Kim’s antics, and Toby’s sweetness, all make for a rich characters in a fun story about finding “home.”

The humor in this book is very tongue-in-cheek and quirky, and the writing is playful. What I loved about this novel was how invested I got in the children’s story, and how I found myself comparing it to a more humorous very of classic tales of what it means to be trapped on an island. The way this book ends I can only hope there is a sequel (TELL ME THERE’S A SEQUEL?!).

But seriously, if you love an adventurous middle grade romp with sweet characters and great humor, then you need to meet with Look Out for the Fitzgerald-Trouts . You will laugh until your face turns blue, and seriously, don’t mess with Pippa.

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ARC Review – A Week Without Tuesday (Tuesday McGillycuddy #2) by Angelica Banks

25332036Title: A Week Without Tuesday (Tuesday McGillycuddy #2)

Author: Angelica Banks

Rating: ★★★★★

Synopsis: Something is broken in the land of story. Real and imaginary worlds are colliding—putting everything and everyone in grave peril. Tuesday and Baxterr, at the request of the Librarian, and with the help of Vivienne Small, venture to find the Gardener—the one person who can stop this catastrophe. On their way, they’ll meet friends and foes, and discover strengths they didn’t know they had. Will they be able to save the land of story?

Huge thank you to Raincoast for this ARC!

I adored Finding Serendipty. I realize books about girls and their dogs aren’t getting the greatest wrap right now, but I’m a complete and utter sucker for them. This is only the second instalment of the Tuesday McGillycuddy series, and I hope it’s not the last because I love these characters and this world so so much.

Tuesday is just such a delightful heroine, full of crazy and curiosities. This time around she is writing her novel, and all of a sudden the novel world and the real world begin to collide. With the help from Vivienne Small and the Librarian, they state that only the Gardener can fix this calamity from happening. Once again this book is full of charm and humour. I found myself laughing out loud quite a bit on the train ride home as I was reading this because Tuesday and Baxterr are just such a delight.

This series is just full of creativity and imagination. It’s one of those middle grade series that has the ability to hook itself to the reader and keep them guessing. This particular instalment is quite the adventure, and I was so excited to see more of Tuesday’s parents in this novel. In fact, I don’t think there is a character I didn’t like in this novel!

If you haven’t read Finding Serendipity, do yourself a favour and read that. Then go straight out afterwards and read this book too. This is such a gem of a series that has these magical powers to delight and entertain readers. If you love middle grade, or have a middle grader in your life who loves grand adventures with cheeky characters, then you need to get them hooked to this series.

Can I have book three yet? There has to be more! Please let there be more. ❤

 

ARC Review – Truthwitch (The Witchlands #1) by Susan Dennard

21414439Title:  Truthwitch (The Witchlands #1)

Author: Susan Dennard

Rating: ★★★★

Synopsis: On a continent ruled by three empires, some are born with a “witchery”, a magical skill that sets them apart from others. In the Witchlands, there are almost as many types of magic as there are ways to get in trouble—as two desperate young women know all too well.
Safiya is a Truthwitch, able to discern truth from lie. It’s a powerful magic that many would kill to have on their side, especially amongst the nobility to which Safi was born. So Safi must keep her gift hidden, lest she be used as a pawn in the struggle between empires.

Iseult, a Threadwitch, can see the invisible ties that bind and entangle the lives around her—but she cannot see the bonds that touch her own heart. Her unlikely friendship with Safi has taken her from life as an outcast into one of reckless adventure, where she is a cool, wary balance to Safi’s hotheaded impulsiveness.

Safi and Iseult just want to be free to live their own lives, but war is coming to the Witchlands. With the help of the cunning Prince Merik (a Windwitch and ship’s captain) and the hindrance of a Bloodwitch bent on revenge, the friends must fight emperors, princes, and mercenaries alike, who will stop at nothing to get their hands on a Truthwitch.

Sam’s Review:

Huge thank you to Raincoast for this ARC!

Generally, I avoid hyped books. I avoid them like the plague because I’ve been burned so many times by fandoms and hype. Truthwitch has possibly one of the most insane book campaigns for a title I’ve seen in awhile, to the point where it’s a bit too crazy for my tastes. However, I get the appeal of this book — a lot.

This is a fantasy novel that is centered around a very dynamic and intense friendship between two woman with magical abilities. They are bonded together by their unique abilities in being able to read truths and see hidden threads, and it makes for a pretty damn exciting tale. There is tons of action in this novel, and it’s very gripping. Safi and Iseult are impeccably developed, delightfully opposite to each other, and yet their friendship was my favourite part of this novel. They have such a rich bond, the kind of best friends that will do anything and everything for each other. Can say anything knowing the other means well, even if they don’t like it. When I say their friendship is intense, I mean that 100%.

I love fantasy that is full of political intrigue as well. This book offers a lot of well developed political shenanigans with some horrific people wanting the power of truth. The stakes are always high, and it feels like Dennard is a huge fangirl, because that’s the sort of connection I made while reading the novel and looking at the stakes for both Iseult and Safi. The choices are so damned if you do and damned if ya don’t.

The romance was the on bit I had some trouble with. I appreciate levels of sexual tension, but this one didn’t really capture me. I was way more into shipping Safi and Iseult’s friendship that I just didn’t find myself caring as much for the romance elements. I wanted to care, but I just, didn’t. I was just way too team Safi and Iseult.

This is a delightful fantasy novel, and I am excited to see where Susan Dennard goes with it as sequels come out. She has a very rich fantasy world with this story, and I’m intrigued to see how things will fair for Safi and Iseult as more books come out. If you love an intensely awesome friendship, kick ass heroines, and some strong political intrigue, then you need to put Truthwitch on your TBR.

ARC Review – Instructions for the End of the World by Jamie Kain

23848031Title:  Instructions for the End of the World

Author: Jamie Kain

Rating: ★★★

Synopsis: He prepared their family for every natural disaster known to man—except for the one that struck.  When Nicole Reed’s father forces her family to move to a remote area of the Sierra Foothills, one without any modern conveniences, it’s too much too handle for her mother, who abandons them in the middle of the night. Heading out to track her down, Nicole’s father leaves her in charge of taking care of the house and her younger sister, Izzy. For a while, Nicole is doing just fine running things on her own. But then the food begins to run out, the pipes crack, and forest fires start slowly inching their way closer every day. Wolf, a handsome boy from the neighboring community, offers to help her when she needs it most, but when she starts to develop feelings for him, feelings she knows she will never be allowed to act on once her father returns, she must make a decision. With her family falling apart, will she choose to continue preparing for tomorrow’s disasters, or will she take a chance and really start living for today?

Huge thank you to Raincoast/St. Martin’s Griffin for this ARC!

Sam’s Review:

Last year I read The Good Sister, a book I wasn’t expecting much from considering it was compared to The Lovely Bones, a book I quite disliked. I read it, and I LOVED it along with Jamie Kain’s writing style. I was so excited to hear she had a second YA novel coming in Instructions for the End of the World.

However, this book was lacking compared to her first. I had a hard time trying to connect with the characters at times. Part of it is the multiple perspectives, though by the end of it Nicole and Wolf begin to dominate it. It’s one of those books I kept wondering if I would have liked more written in one perspective or if it had been done in third would it have been more effective.

That being said, once again Kain writes a story about a troubled family coming together, in this case for the inevitable end of the world. She really has an amazing knack for writing family dynamics and making you care about the overall picture in terms of how the family will survive, how they will succeed, and where they have the potential to completely family. I loved reading about Nicole and Izzy’s family life, and I found those moments of the novel, especially when paired with the survivalist aspects to be quite gripping. Kain just really knows how to paint an engaging family portrait.

Despite having read this novel in a day, there’s a part of me that just felt it was lacking in terms of plot. It’s a case where the blurb doesn’t illustrate what the book is really about, and if you are expecting an apocalyptic novel, this probably is going to miss the mark. The ending alone complicates things in that it just ends and doesn’t provide a conclusion to anything really. I see why this was done, but as a reader I didn’t feel entirely satisfied when I finished the novel.

Even though I have some problems with this novel, I still think Jamie Kain is an amazing writer, and I love the experiences that she transplants me into when I start reading her novels. While this is no The Good Sister, I still found myself engaged byInstructions for the End of the World, and read the book in a day. There is a lot to like here, even if it isn’t the most satisfying read out there.

River’s Review:

After reading and LOVING The Good Sister I was very excited for this book. I grew up in a backwoods type country bumpkin town, my father made sure we knew how to hunt and take care of ourselves in the wild, and I went to outdoors camp when I was a kid. My family is NOT crazy “preppers” like the family in this book, but I was curious to see how well I could relate.

Sadly this book just didn’t cut it for me. The writing was still very good, but the payout at the end of this was not what I was hoping for. After the family drama in The Good Sister I was sad to see just a shadow of that in this book. The father clearly had some ISSUES (as did the mother) but it didn’t feel as natural in this book as it did The Good Sister.

This book starts off with Nicole and her family showing up at a dilapidated old house that apparently belonged to some great-great-great-great relative and hadn’t been lived in since that relative had been alive. Nicole’s father has moved them there so they can live off the gird in preparation for the ~end of the world~. Nicole has grown up buying into her father’s beliefs (btw father is some ex Military general who just randomly retired for no reason… until REASONS later on in the book). But somehow the mother and younger sister are NOT on the dad’s side of the fence and I just didn’t know HOW they’d made it this far with the two of them being so NOT a part of this.

And I guess that really bugged me through most of this book. How did the mother and the sister really get this far with the father acting the way he did? I could understand if like, the mother financially couldn’t leave or SOMETHING but again, there was never any explanation (and then the mother later enrolls in Grad school so I don’t think money was ever an issue). And how was the younger sister able to get away with as much as she did?

This was another multi-POV book and it did NOT work for me. There were WAY too many voices and I really didn’t see the need for Laurel’s AT ALL. She literally had NO effect on this book. Her chapters could have been edited out and we would have lost nothing. The younger sister’s were also pretty useless to the story. Sure they showed what she was struggling with, but she was a massive brat (and she did have right to be, but STILL) and I just didn’t feel like her voice really contributed to the plot or story. Wolf’s was okay, but I really would have been FINE if this would have been in first person from Nicole’s POV.

Also this is supposed to be a survival book. I was expecting tension and actual things that needed to be survived. Sure their water stopped working, but their lives weren’t really IN DANGER. And the part with the fires was like two pages and then it was done. I wanted some actual life-threatening survival! And I don’t know the gun/hunting laws in California, but I can they really, LEGALLY, be allowed to just go out hunting on their property any old time of year?! And Nicole, do you NOT know about wearing orange so that OTHER people don’t shoot at you? That part really bugged me.

Overall this wasn’t BAD, it just wasn’t… anything really. And that made me so sad after LOVING The Good Sister.

Blog Tour – A Daughter of No Nation (Hidden Sea Tales #2) by A.M. Dellamonica (Review and Q&A)

A.M Dellamoncia is an author I’ve actually had the pleasure of meeting a few years back. During Fan Expo (?), we bonded over being Italo-Scotches, people who are half Italian, half Scottish. I had purchased a copy of Indigo Springs, which I’ve since read and enjoyed (really nifty stuff there!). She’s a very funny individual with a good sense of humour, and if you live in the Toronto area when she’s doing an event, I urge you to go and see her — she’s a great person. Her latest series Hidden Sea Tales, is a series I became smitten with last year, so when Raincoast approached me to be a part of the blog tour for the second book, how could I resist?

Below you will find my review of the second book and a short Q&A with A.M Dellamonica, where she discusses Bram (aka my gay book boyfriend) and her inspiration for this series. Enjoy! And make sure to check out A Child of the Hidden Sea (out in both hardcover and paperback) and then the sequel, A Daughter of No Nation which released in hardcover on December 1st.


25543928Title:  A Daughter of No Nation (Hidden Sea Tales #2)

Author: A.M. Dellamonica

Rating:  ★★★ 1/2

Synopsis: As soon as Sophie Hansa returned to our world, she is anxious to once again go back to Stormwrack. Unable to discuss the wondrous sights she has seen, and unable to tell anyone what happened to her in her time away, Sophie is in a holding pattern, focused entirely on her eventual chance to return.

With the sudden arrival of Garland Parrish, Sophie is once again gone. This time, she has been called back to Stormwrack in order to spend time with her father, a Duelist-Adjudicator, who is an unrivaled combatant and fearsome negotiator. But is he driven by his commitment to seeing justice prevail, or is he a sociopath? Soon, she discovers something repellent about him that makes her reject him, and everything he is offering. Adrift again, she discovers that her time spent with her father is not without advantages, however, for Sophie has discovered there is nothing to stop her from setting up a forensic institute in Stormwrack, investigating cases that have been bogged down in the courts, sometimes for years. Her fresh look into a long-standing case between two of the islands turns up new information that could get her, and her friends, pulled into something bold and daring, which changes the entire way she approaches this strange new world. 

Huge thank you to Raincoast Books/Tor for this ARC!

Sam’s Review:

Let me preface this review by stating how much I adored Child of the Hidden Sea. I WAS IN LOVE WITH IT! I found it just a unique and refreshing take on both time slip fantasy and pirates. Just the fact alone that pirates are such a dying breed in literature make me depressed considering how much fun and roguish they can be.

And here’s the kicker: I was so excited about a sequel for Child of the Hidden Sea because I loved the world, I thought the characters were a ton of fun (BRAM!) and because at the end of the day, I liked how Dellamonica gave the reader a lot to think about. Sophie is wonderful as a heroine who is delectably flawed, but charming nonetheless. Something about A Daughter of No Nation did not grip me right away the way the first book did. I struggled with the majority of this book, and if I’m being honest, I can’t really explain why given that everything I liked about the first book was definitely still here and if anything there was moreof it.

But I struggled, and realized it wasn’t the book: it was me. I was trying to force myself to read this book when I wasn’t in the mood, and as a result my enjoyment suffered. This is not a bad sequel by any stretch of the imagination, but rather it didn’t hook me the way the first book did. The writing is still quite stellar and vivid, and while I enjoyed it, I felt a bit more lost considering I hadn’t reread A Child of the Hidden Sea, and I think I should have.

What I will say, however, is the last hundred pages are what did it for me. I was completely glued the story, turning the pages and demanding the need for more. All of a sudden the book had this grip on me that refused to let go until I had gotten to end. I won’t spoil this book, but for those who loved the first one, those last hundred pages will keep you so invested and remind you of why the first book worked so well.

So while this sequel was a bit slow for me and didn’t really work for me mood-wise, I still plan on reading book three when it releases. I think sometimes a second book can suffer from a middle book syndrome and sometimes that is okay too. I just admit, I wish there had been more Bram. Any time Bram was around, the book had my fullest attention because darn it, he’s just so damn delightful.

A. M. DELLAMONICA is the author of Indigo Springs, winner of the
Sunburst Award for Canadian Literature of the Fantastic, and its concluding sequel, Blue
Magic. Her short stories have appeared in a number of fantasy and science fiction
magazines and anthologies, and on Tor.com.

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Q&A on A Daughter of No Nation (and why you should join the Bram train!)

The amazing folks at Raincoast gave me the chance to ask A.M Dellamoncia a few questions about the Hidden Sea Tales, and she was awesome enough to answer them! Here’s the results:

Bram is my favourite character in the series. He’s delightfully sassy. Where did the inspiration for his character come from?

I don’t think there was ever a point where I didn’t know Sophie would have a brother.My siblings (a category that includes inlaws who’ve been part of my life for almost
thirty years as well as my sister and stepsibs) are a crucial thread within the fabric of
my life.

The Hidden Sea Tales are about microclimates, as well as a hundred other things, and I
believe that families are social microclimates. By this I mean that the only person whose
experience of growing up can ever be remotely like your own is that of a kid who’s grown
up in the same household. Even then, of course, two different children can come away with
completely different perspectives on what happened in their shared past, and this is
pretty much true of Sophie and Bram. They have very different takes on their dad in
particular. Even so, they are close–there’s a scene in A Daughter of No Nation where
they’re each so determined to protect the other from physical harm that they’re
practically stumbling into each other, and thereby putting themselves in more danger
rather than less.

As someone who is queer, I also have some familiarity with the experience of building
your own family from the close-knit circle of people with whom you share many experiences
but no actual DNA. Bram is definitely inspired by many of the smart and thoroughly
wonderful gay men I have come to know over the years.

One aspect I love about this series is the time-slip nautical/pirate theme that you have   working through the story. What made you decide to blend so many different genres to craft this series?

I am very proud of my first two books, Indigo Springs and Blue Magic, but they are
somewhat somber and the latter, in particular, has a shockingly high body count. When I
set out to write a Child of A Hidden Sea, I wanted to have fun. I started by making a
list of everything I love: sailing ships, Sherlock Holmes, biodiversity, portal fantasy,
sea monsters, wildlife biologists, crime procedurals, nature documentaries, photography,
pirates, magic, volcanoes… okay, I admit it was something of a nerdy list.

The sensible thing at that point would have been to pare down that initial brainstorming
session, choosing a few absolute favourites and saving the rest for the next book. But I
wanted to go at it like a kid attacking a pile of birthday gifts, by keeping everything
on the list that I possibly could. I had a lot of fun writing these novels, and I think
it shows.


Huge thank you again to both A.M Dellamonica and Raincoast for all their time and effort in this blog tour. Both Child of the Hidden Sea and Daughter of No Nation are out NOW!

Wanna see where the tour is heading next? Check out the tour stops below!

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ARC Review – On the Run by Tristan Bancks

23310747Title:  On the Run

Author: Tristan Bancks

Rating:  ★ 1/2

Synopsis: When a twelve-year-old boy’s parents discover millions of dollars deposited into their bank account, they take him and his sister on the lam in this fast-paced middle-grade adventure.

Ben has always wanted to be a cop, so he’s intrigued when police officers show up at the door, asking for his parents. Then his parents arrive after the police leave and rush him and his sister into the car, insisting they are going on a vacation. Ben’s a little skeptical—his family doesn’t go on vacations. After they lose the police in a high-speed car chase and end up in a remote cabin deep in the woods, Ben discovers his parents’ secret: millions of dollars were deposited into their bank account by accident, and they took the money and ran off. Ben isn’t sure what to think. Are his parents criminals? And because he ran off with them, is he a criminal, too?

Huge thank you to Raincoast Books for this ARC!

Sam’s Review:

Considering I decided to read this during the month of October, I was hoping for a much more spooky middle grade experience. On the Run in a lot of ways was not what I was expecting, as no matter how hard I tried, I just couldn’t suspense my disbelief enough.

Or rather, at all.

Part of the issue for me is that Ben reads so much younger than he is, yet will do things that you question how old he really is. The writing fell super flat for me, so in suspenseful moments, I didn’t find myself having the kind of emotional connection I think the author wanted me to have. I didn’t like the characters, and the only character I did like (Olive) wasn’t always handled very well in my opinion. A lot of the mannerism and behaviors from the characters felt so all over the place and as it went on, I started to care less and less.

If I’m being honest, I’m weirdly impressed but confused at the idea of Ben and Olive running off with over a million dollars and being able to hide it safely. I say this considering they are on their own for parts of the novel and any time they met someone I kept wondering why no one was really questioning them ON being alone. I recognize this book is supposed to have survivalist elements, but I couldn’t suspend my disbelief to see how any of the situations Ben got himself into could really be plausible.

I adore middle grade, especially those with a tougher concept in mind, but this book didn’t work for me at all. I just found myself bored by the writing and confused as to how a lot of the plot really occurred. That being said, I will still likely recommend it to middle graders at the library I work at because I do think they would enjoy the adventure aspects present in this story. For me personally, however, it just didn’t work.

ARC Review – The Boy Who Knew Everything by Victoria Forester

23310670Title:  The Boy Who Knew Everything

Author: Victoria Forester

Rating:  ★★★★ 1/2

Synopsis: There is a prophecy. It speaks of a girl who can fly and a boy who knows everything. The prophecy says that they have the power to bring about great change…

The boy is Conrad Harrington III. The girl is Piper McCloud. They need their talents now, more than ever, if they are to save the world—and themselves.

Huge thank you to Raincoast/Macmillan for this ARC!

Sam’s Review:

I was pleasantly surprised by how sucked in I was while readingThe Boy Who Knew Everything. Forester writes such a gripping middle grade novel full of wonder, whimsy, and action. I wasn’t sure what I was expecting when I started this book, but I really had a hard time putting it down!

I didn’t realize this was a companion to The Girl Who Could Fly, a novel I admit I hadn’t read. Most of the time, I’m not fond of reading books that are companion pieces to something I haven’t read before, but this was a rare case for me, as the author does an amazing job of making you feel like you haven’t missed anything too huge. Were the descriptions lacking at times? A bit. But considering I didn’t have the first book to work with, it allowed me to perhaps imagine some aspects of the story a bit differently.

I loved how rich the world building was, even for a world that was likely well established in the first book. I loved these characters, especially Piper who easily won my heart throughout the novel. I loved watching Conrad grow in the novel, especially because he starts out just so cynical and egotistical because he’s a super genius. His growth is wonderfully developed, quite gradual, and I love the lessons that he learns from the other characters about sharing emotion, that logic can’t solve every problem. The book also has one twist that is done SO WELL that I admit, I didn’t see it coming! The ending was a bit of a non-ending, though for the most part I did like how Forester wrapped every up, especially for Conrad.

Reading The Boy Who Knew Everything makes me want to go back and find a copy of The Girl Who Could Fly, just so I can really truly understand this world and it’s characters more. While I didn’t feel lost per say, part of me just wants to see why that first book is such a cult favourite amongst adults and children. I’m eager to see what Victoria Forester will write next, and part of me is thrilled that I get to go back now and see where everythign began in the first place.